The wind is howling outside, you can hear the rain beating against your roof and windows and then, *click*, the power shuts off. No lights, no refrigeration, no hot water, no heat. What’s your plan? How long can you last before you need help or electricity? Hurricane activity and winter storms can wreak havoc on the DC area’s power grid, despite our city planners’ best efforts. A home generator can alleviate concerns like these and allow homeowners to sit out a storm in relative comfort.
If you’re in the market for this emergency power source, we’re here to give you the scoop on home generators.
Reasons to Buy a Generator
The top reason to have a home generator at the ready is to keep your refrigerator and freezer running smoothly. In areas that suffer from frequent power loss, having a generator keeps food spoilage to a minimum.
When you’re shopping for a home generator, consider the situations that you are buying it for. If you want preparedness for a hurricane, how many days would you expect power to be down? What are the necessities you need power for and for how many days? Thinking about what is truly necessary and what can you do without will determine which type of home generator to get.
Permanent Standby Generators
Costing in the thousands and requiring installation by a licensed electrician, standby generators are a permanent upgrade to your home. Located outside of the home, these appliances are similar in look and size to a central AC condenser. If your home regularly loses power, you may find life running smoother with this backup power option.
Immediate Power Restoration
If your home is equipped with a permanent standby generator, you might not even notice when the power goes out. Usually plugged directly into a natural gas line (or else a propane tank), these home generators work with your home’s existing transfer switch and will activate mere seconds after detecting a power outage. Once installed, you won’t need to lift a finger to activate this appliance, whether you’re home or not!
Standby home generators don't require fresh fuel or any external fuel storage at all. Because most options will connect to your natural gas line, you don’t have to worry about keeping fresh fuel around or the dangers that come with it.
Another advantage to a permanent standby generator is that they turn on and do a test run every 30 days and will alert you to any issues. If you never get an alert from your generator, you know that it will be ready to go when your household needs it. Permanent generators are also obviously not portable, and are quite complicated to disconnect, thus are not a common target of theft.
Powered by a Furnace
With a permanent standby generator, a licensed electrician can easily choose the furnace as one of your appliances to receive generator power when your electricity fails. For a gas or diesel-powered portable generator, using it to power a gas furnace is a riskier proposition. It is possible and indeed one of the primary uses of portable generators during the winter months, but it has a high risk factor for carbon monoxide poisoning if you don’t take every safety precaution.
With prices beginning near $100 and up, portable generators are the appliances flying off hardware store shelves when a huge storm is headed to the Mid-Atlantic. Equipped with rubber tires and literally ready to roll, these home generators are powered by gasoline or diesel, which should be stored separately. You don't need to be an expert of any kind to get these machines to work.
Carbon Monoxide Dangers
The Achilles heel of portable generators is that they must be run outdoors, which makes them vulnerable to theft and risk of electrocution in the event of a big storm or natural disaster. The temptation to run them indoors is a strong one for too many owners, making carbon monoxide poisoning a very dangerous and fast reality. Even when run properly outdoors with the connection feeding through a window or door, you should always have a carbon monoxide detector nearby so you know if this odorless gas is leeching into your home.
Volatile Fuel Storage
When preparing for potential use of your portable generator, you’ll need to stock up on fresh gas or diesel. Because these fuels rely on volatile particles to get the engine firing, and these particles are the first to evaporate, having non-stale fuel on hand for emergencies can be a challenge. Follow government-approved guidelines for safe fuel storage and backup generator use.
Which Should You Buy?
Convenience comes at a premium (we’re looking at you, standby generators!), but is often worth the price for safe and simple operation if you can afford it. In terms of safety, ease of use, and convenience, the standby generator wins in all categories. However, while fuel storage, proper ventilation and risk of theft all work against the portable generator, but it will usually win out on price.
If you need a standby generator installed or repaired on your property, call the licensed electrician experts at John C. Flood to schedule service. Our courteous professionals will get your generator in tip-top condition, so you’re never left in the dark. Schedule service today!